Texel | 17 Oct 1914

The situation in Flanders is just about to reach boiling point, the Germans make an important decision in Poland, and there’s plenty of action at sea, which is where we’ll start, off the Dutch island of Texel.

Texel

The Germans may be seeing success on land, but the Admiralty is determined to show that Britannia still rules the waves, particularly after the recent losses to U-boat activity. The brand new cruiser HMS Undaunted leads a squadron of destroyers out of Harwich into the North Sea to go looking for trouble. They’re cruising somewhere near Texel when they unexpectedly find it, in the form of four small German torpedo-boats. The boats have been dispatched on a mission to lay mines in the Thames Estuary, and any other targets of opportunity.

They will never carry that mission out. At first they fail to realise that the ships could be British; when they do, it’s far too late to escape. The German boats lead the British ships a merry dance around Texel for a while, trying to use their torpedoes and their small guns, but are old, slow and hopelessly outmatched. Out of sheer pride, all four ships refuse to surrender and fight as best they can to the bitter end. Three of the boats are sunk by gunfire. The last eventually stops answering back, and the ship is boarded. The matelots discover one German sailor who preferred to stay with his ship rather than abandon it; he is removed (presumably feeling rather smug) and the ship is finally scuttled. The effect of all the Germans’ song and dance here at Texel is four lightly wounded British sailors and some chipped paint on a couple of destroyers.

Texel is an important morale-booster for the Royal Navy. And, once more, an action prompts a distinct change in German naval doctrine. Torpedo-boats will no longer be used this way, and it becomes a great deal harder for them to pursue their attempts at mining British waters.

And it’s not just on top of the waves at Texel where Britannia rules today. The vast majority of attention paid to submarines in both world wars is to German exploits, but they weren’t the only ships out there. The British vessels E-1 and E-9 both successfully slip the German anti-submarine measures, and successfully enter the Baltic Sea for the first time.

Flanders

The Battle of the Yser gets properly going. The Belgian and French defenders of Dixmude are well aware that the scheisse is about to contact the ventilateur. The Germans have also ordered their super-heavy siege howitzers to this part of Flanders, and they open the bombardment today. There’s sporadic action out in front of Dixmude, but for the moment, the invaders are happy to let their guns do the talking while the defenders take cover as best they can.

The Allied advance through southern Flanders is finally becoming worn down by the resistance and the weather. Violanes is taken, and Aubers Ridge is unsuccessfully assaulted. It’s now looking unlikely that the thrust here will reach its objective at La Bassee. Armentieres does fall today, and the forces there push on a significant way to the east. Further attacks are planned along both sides of the River Lys.

Vistula

Neither the Germans nor the Russians have particularly covered themselves in glory here. All levels of command on both sides are having extreme trouble getting any orders sent out, never mind paid attention to. Wary of a Russian offensive into Silesia, General von Hindenburg withdraws his army and orders a general retreat. This will take some time, and sporadic fighting will continue until the end of the month, but the German march on Warsaw ends today. Though they don’t know it, they’ve inflicted about double their casualties on the Russians.

Actions in Progress

Battle of the Vistula
Battle of La Bassee
Battle of Armentieres
Battle of the Yser

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Casual racism on page 6, describing British Empire troops as “The wonderful little brown men we have been waiting to see”. Rumblings from the Balkans on page 8, as the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria (not our mates) are alleged to be in league against Romania (our mates), which would prove not entirely inaccurate as the war developed. And events thus far are described rather optimistically in a leader as “the complete failure of the enemy’s plans” (also on page 8); why not tell that to the PBI in two weeks’ time and see what they think? (The response would likely be unprintable.)

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